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At home we make our tea the old fashioned way, with loose leaf tea in a teapot. Unfortunately, sometimes there is left over tea in the pot that we forget about, which becomes strong-tasting and cold. Rather than throw the tea away, I sometimes collect it to make bara brith (“speckled bread” in Welsh). According to various sources on the internet, the origins of this loaf date back to the days when neighbouring villagers shared a communal oven. As the heat of the village oven begun to fade, a mixture of leftover dough and dried fruit would be combined and baked to make this treat.

There are 2 different styles of bara brith. One is said to resemble a fruit cake (with the use of chemical leavening) and the other more closely resembles a fruity bread loaf (using yeast). Due to the use of chemical leavening the recipe I use is technically the cake version, however it doesn’t use any fat and has significantly less sugar than a number of the other cake versions I have seen. Perhaps it is meant to be a modern bread version with the convenience of not having to wait for the yeast to develop?

I use a recipe derived from the old North Wales Tourism website. However, I personally made a few amendments:

    1. I found that the original recipe yielded too dry a dough -my mixed dried fruit (primarily sultanas) tended to soak up nearly all the tea in the first place. I use an additional 2/3 of the original soaking liquid amount when it comes to combining the dry and wet ingredients.
    2. I halved the entire recipe to make a single 1lb loaf rather than a 2lb loaf. This would involve halving the amount of egg, so for simplicity this was replaced with the equivalent amount of Orgran egg replacer or flax egg (1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed with 1.5 tbsp water). You might also be able to 2) use another egg replacer with binding properties 3) use 1/2 an egg, then cook and eat the other half or 4) make 2 lb loaves using 1 egg. I then adjusted the cooking time to account for the reduction in loaf size.

So, the recipe I use is as follows:

  • 224g (0.5lb) mixed dried fruit
  • 150ml (1/4 pint) tea + 100ml tea (1/6 pint)
  • 1 tbsp marmalade
  • 0.5 egg (using an egg replacer)
  • 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 0.5 tsp mixed spice
  • 250g (0.5lb) self-raising flour
  • honey to glaze
  1. Soak the fruit overnight in the tea.
  2. On the next day, mix the marmalade, egg equivalent, sugar, spice and flour. The dough should have a dropping consistency. Spoon into a greased 450g/1lb loaf tin and bake in a warm oven (gas 3, 325ºF, 170ºC) for 1 hour, or until the centre is cooked through. The original recipe suggested checking from time to time that the top doesn’t brown too much (covering with a sheet of foil or moving down a shelf in the oven if required), but I did not find this necessary.
  3. Once cooked, leave the bara brith to stand for 5 minutes, then tip out of the tin on to a cooling tray. Using a pastry brush, glaze the top with honey.

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If you love crunchy biscuits and coconut, then this recipe is for you. I found this recipe on an old newspaper clipping – author unknown but annotated “delicious” – and decided to give it a try. The results were delicious indeed!

Here is my version of the recipe. The original recipe used pink food colouring, which I decided to omit. The recipe also suggested that these could be sandwiched in pairs with a little jam, but I think these are delicious just as they are.

Coconut crunchies – makes 15 medium, 20 small

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. desiccated coconut
  • 4 oz. White sugar
  • 1 level tbsp cornflour
  • 1 large egg – size 2 (or 50ml worth of egg replacer if you want to go the egg-free route – see notes)
  • A pinch of salt
  1. Preheat oven to moderate; gas mark 4 or 350°F/180°C.
  2. Line a baking sheet. Grease the baking parchment well and dust with cornflour. (You don’t want your crunchies to stick to the paper!)
  3. Mix the coconut, sugar and cornflour.
  4. Beat the egg (or egg replacer) with the salt and combine with the dry ingredients.
  5. Spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet, pressing each spoonful into a rounded, slightly peaked shape.
  6. Bake for approx. 15 minutes, until beginning to turn brown.
  7. Take them out of the oven and carefully remove them from the baking parchment using a palette knife (or other wide metal implement). Transfer to a cooling rack.

Egg-free route

I have made these successfully using Orgran egg replacer. As the egg acts as a binder, I measured the volume of the egg’s contents in ml, which is how I came up with the figure 50ml. The main differences are that 1) they don’t look quite as golden (no egg yolk) 2) they are possibly more crunchy than the egg-based ones – a bonus if you want them crunchy in the first place(!) and 3) they are more difficult, but not impossible to shape. 50ml may not seem a lot, but add more and you will find that your creations will start to go runny…

I might try making some with flaxseed replacer (another possible vegan baking substitute for eggs) to see if they impart more of a golden tone than Orgran.

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One of my good friends grew up and lived in Liverpool for a significant proportion of his life. However – having made the decision to become a vegetarian at a young age – he has never been able to eat Scouse. For those of you who didn’t know, Scouse is a beef or lamb-based stew associated with Liverpool (supposedly popular with sailors who brought it from Northern Europe), to the extent that Liverpudlians are also known as “Scousers”. Occasionally, scouse was served minus the meat in it (“blind Scouse”) due to cost reasons. However, it is likely that it would still have utilised meat stock, and perhaps some Worcestershire sauce (which usually contains fish).

Having done an extensive Google search for meat-based scouse recipes, I then did a Google search for vegetarian scouse recipes. However, they didn’t look very authentic to me (having just looked at the meat-based recipes). Worcestershire sauce was a common feature in many of the meat-based recipes, however this was simply omitted from vegetarian ones that I found, with no attempt to replace it with a suitable alternative. One of the vegetarian recipes was also accompanied by a picture of a rather pale-looking broth, which did not look like the dish at all.

So here is my own version of the dish, which hopefully looks and tastes a bit more authentic. Note that I am not actually a Scouser myself and so I am not sure if this is truly as authentic as it can get – this is just my own interpretation based on a comparison of the various meat-based Scouse recipes I have come across. Suggestions from Scousers welcome 🙂

Vegetarian/Vegan Blind Scouse – serves 3-4

N.B. The Scouse stew in the picture also contains a few bits of cauliflower and cauliflower greens which needed to be used up at the time, added as part of the vegetable stock by my good friend the aforementioned Scouser 🙂

  • 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 onions
  • 700g of root vegetables e.g. carrots, swede, turnip
  •  450g of potatoes
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 2-3 tbsp HP sauce – to make up for the missing Worcestershire sauce. Alternatively, use a dash of vegan Worcestershire sauce (e.g. Biona).
  • 2-3 tsps of Marmite and 0.5tsp of soya sauce – to contribute to savouriness and depth, if not using Worcestershire sauce
  • Seasoning (black pepper and salt)
  • TVP/soya chunks (optional).
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp of arrowroot or cornstarch (optional thickening agent, as with long cooking the potatoes should start to break down and thicken the stew anyway)

1) Chop the onions and fry them until soft in the cooking oil.

2) Peel and chop the root vegetables and potatoes.

3) Add the prepared root vegetables and potatoes to the pan and stir thoroughly for a few minutes.

4) If using a slow cooker, transfer the contents of the pan to the slow cooker. Add the vegetable stock, Marmite, HP sauce, bay leaf and soya sauce. Keep about 25ml of cool vegetable stock aside if using the thickening agent.

5) If using a thickening agent, whisk it into the cool vegetable stock until well mixed, then add this mixture to the stew.

6) If using soya chunks, rehydrate them in warm water and add the drained chunks to the stew.

7) Cook at low to medium heat for approx. 2-3 hours, so that the potatoes start to break down and thicken the stew.

8) Discard the bay leaf and sprinkle with thyme. Season well with black pepper and salt.

9) Serve with pickled red cabbage and/or pickled beetroot.

10) If desired, this mixture could be put in a shallow oven-proof dish, covered with shortcrust pastry (pricked to let steam out) and baked in the oven at approx. 190°C for 25-30 mins. to make Scouse pie.

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Pitta bread

Adapted from The Fresh Loaf, here is my recipe for pitta bread using British measurements. I personally recommend the use of wholemeal flour in the recipe as I think that it gives it a better flavour.

As usual, I am too lazy to take a photo so too bad for you 😛

Word of warning: you may find that this dissapears more quickly than you can make it.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups strong white flour
  • 1 cup strong wholemeal flour
  • 1 teaspoon yeast (if not quick yeast, activate as per instructions on packaging, subtracting the sugar and water as necessary)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 – 1 cup warm water (1 part boiling, 2 parts cold)
  1. Put dry ingredients into a bowl and mix. Add the water gradually, mixing well all the time.
  2. When throughly mixed, knead for 10 minutes.
  3. Leave in an oiled bowl, covered by cling film for about 90 minutes in a warm place.
  4. Punch down and divide into 8-12 small rounds of dough. Leave for 10 minutes. Set the oven to about 210 deg C.
  5. Using a rolling pin, shape the rounds into thin oval shapes of even thickness (approx. 0.3mm). Hint – the thinner it is, the more likely it is to puff up in then oven.
  6. Place in the oven until puffed up.
  7. Cool on a baking rack.
  8. Serve or freeze for later.

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Watercress soup

One of our favourites, easy to prepare, nutritious and low in fat too! (Adapted from an original recipe which I lost.)

p.s. will post the picture next time, the soup went too fast this time!

Watercress soup

  • A supermarket packet of watercress – chop it all up and reserve some for garnishing
  • A medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 boiling potatoes, chopped
  • A litre of vegetable stock
  • A little olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly-cracked black pepper
  1. Heat up the olive oil in a pot. Fry the onion till it starts to soften. Add the potato, vegetable stock and watercress. Add the thyme and bay leaf.
  2. Put on a medium simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are done (prick with a fork – if it goes through smoothly, it is done).
  3. Remove the potato, onion and watercress from the pot using a slotted spoon and put into a blender. Add a few ladlefuls of the vegetable stock. Remove the bay leaf from the pan.
  4. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour the resulting puree back into the soup, using a spatula if necessary.
  6. Garnish with the remaining watercress, add freshly-cracked black pepper to taste and serve hot.

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Rhubarb spice cake

A baking success!

Want a slice? Sorry but I can’t send it over the internet, I can only give you the recipe.

You can substitute the rhubarb with cooking apples or something similarly fruity.

Love to my readers 🙂

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My cat food?

Some time ago I read about the Japanese concept of “neko manma” or eating “cat food” style. (The basis behind the name was that before pets were pampered just as much as children, they were usually given scraps off the food table to eat.) It is basically a cheap, convenient way of eating that no one is proud of 😛 This dish which I usually prepare when I am feeling sick or lazy to cook reminds me of the neko manma concept. It’s incredibly simple (using only 3 ingredients excluding the rice) and quick to prepare. Bonus points – my friends thought it tasted quite nice too!

No measurements are given since I never measured anything, being in a hurry everytime I made this dish 😛

My cat food, mixed rice, whatever you want to call it

Ingredients

  • Soya mince (TVP)
  • Some swiss chard or spinach
  • Korean Bulgogi sauce
  • Some rice to serve, I used a mixture of Basmathi and wild

Prepare the soya mince by boiling it in hot water for 5 minutes. But soya mince is cheaper, if you are on a budget). Meanwhile, shred your swiss chard/spinach to achieve your desired consistency. Drain your soya mince and place it back in the pot. Put the pot on a low simmer and add your swiss chard/spinach. Add bulgogi sauce to taste (not enough = tastes boring, too much = too salty). Cook until the swiss chard/spinach is wilted (approx. 2 minutes). Serve with rice.

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